Ganzo G301 Review: Can the Best Budget Multi-Tool Take on the Big Dogs?
Ganzo is yet another Chinese manufacturer that may surprise you with exceptional quality and prices. I am not affiliated with them and this post has not been sponsored by anybody. I just happened to buy a few Ganzo products after spending some time to research for unexpected contenders on the EDC scene. So now I can share my honest opinion with you guys.
Everybody would probably agree that companies like Leatherman, Victorinox, Gerber and Spyderco—just to name a few—offer quite expensive products. Some would even argue that their prices surpass the acceptable ratio of worth-quality in many cases.
This has led many people—myself included—to look for alternative companies. One such company is Ganzo.
You may never have heard of them until now, but Ganzo has been around the block for some time now. They are known for making surprisingly good quality products, many of which resemble those of other companies up to the point of being labelled as "clones."
Indeed, you will find quite a few look-alikes on their catalog that are reminiscent of such names like Spyderco Delica 4, for example. But let's forget about discussion on the morals of originality and authenticity.
Ganzo may have found inspiration—for the lack of a better word—from other brands, but copying appearance is not the same thing as offering equal quality. That's exactly where Ganzo surpasses all other Chinese multi-tool manufacturers.
So let's dig deeper into my review of the G301 multi-tool and find out how close it comes to the more expensive products.
I purchased my Ganzo G301 from a local retailer. The tool came packed in its original product box.
The first positive impression came after seeing the nice packaging. It looked very professionally made, and based on that alone you could see that Ganzo really care about their brand.
The box was heavier than I expected. Inside it, I found a really nice looking nylon pouch. Nothing like the cheap and weak ones you're used to seeing. Ganzo's G301 pouch is clearly made with good craftsmanship guaranteed to last for a long time. The walls of the holder are thick and don't feel like they're going to wear out any time soon.
The reason for it being so heavy is that it holds the multi-tool and it's complimentary bits. More on that later.
Performance: Cheap Knock-Off or the Real Deal?
Even though I knew what to expect from the countless product reviews I've seen, I was still very surprised by the slick appearance of the Ganzo G301 multi-tool.
This thing looks so well engineered and polished that you're starting to feel like you just made the best deal ever.
In terms of appearance, G301 really hits a home run. Very symmetrical shape that is pleasant to the eye. You won't find any of the unnecessary textures and cut-outs on the handles like many of these tools have.
I got the silver model mainly for practical reasons. The chromium plated finish is not polished like on silverware, but rather dull and matte. It really looks much better in real life than it does on photos.
I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the aesthetics of this tool.
Materials and Quality
How about the materials on this baby? Have they taken any shortcuts with G301?
I can tell you with certainty that Ganzo G301 feels very sturdy and well made. It's chunky shape and weight are able to give you a very stable grip.
The metal used is a high quality stainless steel class 440C, which is pretty close to the 420HC on the Leatherman Wave, for example. If you're curious about the difference between both, 440C has more carbon content which makes that steel harder than 420HC. While the 420HC class is usually used for mid-range priced blades due to its affordable cost, the 440C is a very high-end material. Both are extremely corrosion resistant.
Are you still as surprised as I am? So it turns out that the cheaper Ganzo G301 multi-tool is made of much better steel than the considerably more expensive Leatherman Wave!
But let's not get too excited just yet. How about the build quality?
A multi-tool is useless unless it's made to last after being used for heavy duty work over a long period of time. Does Ganzo G301 have what it takes to get the job done?
At first inspection, I noticed that nothing wobbles when you shake the tool in closed state. The folding mechanism is very impressive and it has a nice snap to it. You won't hear any of the side tools jiggle when you shake the G301, nor will you accidentally deploy the pliers. It's very well made!
However, once the tools are deployed, I found that some of them wobble sideways just a tiny bit when I force them by hand. Not sure if that's going to play any role later on, because the joints of the tool seem to be sealed very tightly. And on top of that, all side tools are locking. But it's definitely something to keep an eye on during the first few days of use.
While on the subject of quality, the entire tool looks very durable and stainless which is the whole point. Barring the sideways wobbling, when the tools are in a locked position, they stay that way. The safety/unlock buttons are very tense which means that you won't accidentally activate them while using the blades. You'd need a considerable amount of intentional force to trigger the axis lock.
If there is one engineering fault I could attribute to the tool's build, that would be the spring. For me personally, it doesn't pose any problem but many people consider the exposed spring to be a weakness in design. The reason behind this skepticism is that the spring is vulnerable to damage in its unprotected state.
Now let me just say this. It doesn't look at all like the spring is hanging by a thread. And it's not the type of spring you'd see inside a ballpoint pen. It's actually a lot sturdier. But I see how some negligence or an accidental move might bust it, no matter how unlikely. And if that happens, then what?
Nothing. The tools would still be 100% functional. It just won't have spring-loaded pliers action. The pliers would work as those "analog" ones real men use (friendly sarcasm detected).
Before we get into the functionality of the tools, let me say a few things about how accessible they are.
One of the main reasons I insisted on buying Ganzo G301 is because all side tools are deployed without opening the pliers or doing any adjustments. Everything is accessible just like on a regular pocket knife.
Speaking of blades, Ganzo G301 has three of them. And all three have a stub embedded in them for one-hand opening. I've tested them and they don't exactly open smoothly, but I would attribute that to lack of practice on my part. You'll see why in a few moments.
It's time to mention something which I think could be improved in future upgrades. Most other tools—except the blades—are not so easily accessible especially if you have chunky fingers. The problem is that they're folded too deep into the handles and next to one other. If you had to pick just one specific tool, you might have some difficulty getting it out. But as some user mentioned elsewhere, it would be better to pull all of them out at the same time and get the one you need from there.
That's not too hard to do due to the fact that the folding action is very smooth. Maybe that's largely thanks to the excessive oiling. Whatever the case, the tools slide easily when pulled out. Here I should mention my shameful lack of practice to open the blades using one-hand only.
Overall, accessibility is very well executed but some minor quirks could be improved.
Tools and Functions
Now let's get down to the nitty-gritty. Ganzo G301 includes an amazing set of 26 tools and functions. Time to examine each individual tool. Don't forget to view the product gallery at the bottom of the post!
Knife Blades and Wood Saw
The side handles house three pocket knife-sized blades, one of which is a saw. All three of them may be deployed with just one hand thanks to the embedded stub. Look at the photo below to see how the main blade compares to the Victorinox Cadet.
While many other budget multi-tools usually combine the plain edge and serrated blade into one tool, Ganzo G301 surpasses them by offering these tools as individual features. That's a really awesome deal because we often need both to be separated. The merged tool produces very poor results in my experience. Nice touch, Ganzo!
Both knives come razor sharp out of the box. However, I would think twice before using them to prepare food, since I doubt they used mineral oil during assembly. It looks and smells like standard machine oil.
The saw has wide teeth and is twice the thickness compared to the one found on Victorinox knives. From what I know, the thinner one with smaller teeth performs better thanks to the flexibility achieved by its size, but I can't say that with certainty.
Anyway, the saw length on the G301 is too short to be cutting whole trees down. So why even bother, right?
Not only does G301 come with a pair of scissors, but they're one of the best in the whole industry. Yes, you read that right!
Clearly the inspiration for this tool came from Leatherman. Ganzo made theirs just a little big chunkier. What I love about this feature is that nothing puts tension on the spring when the scissors are folded.
Design aside, the tool comes very sharp and it works much better than you'd imagine. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about it.
Can/Bottle Opener and Wire Stripper
This is where most budget tools completely botch the whole product. Very often companies treat this tool as a joke and don't give it sharp enough edge to make a hole, not to mention open a tin can.
While Ganzo's can opener isn't particularly sharp, it will do the job. More notably, the wire stripper also has a sharpened edge unlike so many others. I'm looking at you, Victorinox!
But let's be real. The edges are a bit too dull. At least the can opener on Victorinox knives are able to cut your skin, which the one on Ganzo G301 probably won't.
Here comes another amazing feature that not many companies have adopted. Ganzo G301 has an awl/reamer that could be seen as another "hidden" pen blade.
The great thing about Victorinox is that their awl has a really sharp edge which makes all the difference. Ganzo expands on that by turning their reamer into a hybrid between a punch and a knife. When seen at first, it looks just like a miniature blade. And it definitely could be used as one since it's razor sharp.
Although it's entirely different than the one Victorinox use, both of them have their advantages. Honestly I can't say which type I prefer more until I've used them for longer. One thing I could say about Ganzo G301 in this regard is that it will surprise you with yet another hidden gem.
If there's one tool I wish they change entirely on this set, it's the small screw that also works as a chisel. I am skeptical of its use as a screw just because the multi-tool already has a dedicated bits driver. What's more, I rarely find that size of screws in my everyday life. It's a bit useless to me personally.
However, I could really use a chisel. The only problem is that it's too small to be used as such. At least I think so. Something in the lines of Victorinox's flat-head screw tip (bottle opener) would have been perfect.
The dedicated bits driver is one of the featured tools I am most excited about. It's a thing of beauty.
It fits just perfectly inside the handles, and interestingly enough, it's the easiest tool to open. The best thing about it is that the extension is compatible with standard sized bits you could get at any hardware store. How many of the other expensive multi-tools can say that?
None. The majority of them have a product-specific bits and bit drivers that keep you subscribed to their services indefinitely. It's good someone else came on the scene to disrupt this nightmarish system.
And did I mention that it's magnetic? Oh yes, the extension is magnetized and those naughty little screws won't be able to escape from your reach next time.
Time to open this beauty. Let's see those pliers in action!
There seems to be a common pattern among mid-range multi-tools. Many of them are poorly designed at the wire cutters, as is the case with the Leatherman Wingman. While this might work for most wires, it won't detach the separated ends completely. Having such function half-baked is unacceptable for me. That would be like having a knife blade with only one half of the edge sharpened.
Ganzo G301 is kicking Wingman's butt by having wire cutters that interlock. They go all the way through and then some. So far, so good right?
Not so fast, chump. The G301 has its own problem. Sadly the wire cutters are too dull. I've tested them a few times and they can actually cut through wires (especially thick ones), but thinner cables are trickier to sever entirely. The catch is to pull both ends of the wire down and squeeze the pliers. During my tests this method always cut them in one go. I'm not sure how consistently that would work in the long run though.
As far as the needle nose tip is concerned, both ends close shut without leaving any space between them. That's worth something!
The rest of the pliers works just as it should. I didn't experience any issues using them.
There you have it, folks! I hope you enjoyed my review. Before you go, let's recap the whole tool and list the pros and cons.
In the short time using Ganzo G301, I found that it is a remarkable tool. Just when I thought I couldn't get any more surprised, G301 delivered another gem.
What I love about this multi-tool is the selection of tools they put together and the genius way they made them fit in such eye-pleasing shape. All tools are easily accessible without having the need to open the pliers. Sure, there are a few challenges accessing a few features, but the main point is that you can easily pull all of them out at the same time and pick the one you need.
Another really important detail is the high-end materials they used and how durable they made Ganzo G301. Unless the company is lying and no authority ever called them on it, they actually use better steel than Leatherman for two-three times the price. Isn't that crazy?!
No matter how indestructible they made it, quality means nothing if all tools fall apart one day. Based on my experience, I am very happy to say that you would have yours for a long time.
Last but not least, we can't ignore the price. Ganzo G301 costs up to three times less than the high-end tools of its competitors and does the same tasks just as good, if not even better. How can anyone argue with that?
- High-end stainless steel
- Very sturdy and well built
- Incredible selection of tools
- Three dedicated blades (plain edge, serrated edge, wood saw)
- Dedicated bits driver (compatible with standard bits and magnetized)
- Awesome scissors
- Sharp instruments
- Awl-knife hybrid
- One-hand blades deployment
- Locking mechanism on all tools (works very well)
- Very reliable folding mechanism
- Wire cutters close all the way through
- High quality pouch
- Comes excessively oiled
- Knife blade may be a bit small
- Saw is quite small to be of use
- Miniature screwdriver is not very useful (personal opinion)
- Lanyard hole is wasting the space where another tool could have been included instead
- No belt clip (but maybe that's a positive)
- Exposed spring
- Wire cutters are too dull
- Side tools are not easily deployed one at a time
- Pliers are opened with a bit of force (based on lack of my experience, I suppose)
I rarely recommend something so highly because I am often too critical. But no matter the aforementioned issues I have with this tool, it's truly the best alternative to get if you're looking to buy an affordable multi-tool. Where else would you get something that competes with the high-end Leatherman and Gerber products for this price?
I'm not necessarily saying it's better than a Wave or a NXT, but G301 has its highlights. It's a contender that deserves the recognition it has achieved.
If your budget doesn't allow you to get fancy, Ganzo is a really worthy product.